From black light to black depression, from the skeletons of Halloween to the skeletons in (and out of) Oscar Wilde’s closet, Katie Matter is about to have a very interesting three weeks.
She’s playing the plucky little girl at the heart of Omimeo’s “Black Light Magic: Halloween Dream,” which runs through Nov. 1 at ImaginOn. Four days afterward, she’ll spring into action in “From the Depths,” a dance theater piece by Moving Poets Charlotte based on the life and late writings of Wilde.
Modern dancers often hop from gig to gig locally, like polar bears trying to stay afloat on dwindling ice floes. At 31, Matter moves more than many: She has bounced among Kinetyx Dance Ensemble, Queen City Jazz Company, Revelations Dance Theater, Echo Contemporary Dance Company and E.E. Motion. You might have seen her in Kim Jones’ recreation of Martha Graham’s “Panorama” last year at Knight Theater.
“I always like to be challenged, to learn new movement, even if it doesn’t seem right for my body,” she says. “I’m still finding out who I am as a dancer. Good or bad, they’re all learning experiences.”
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The native of West Palm Beach, Fla., moved here after graduating from Palm Beach County School of the Arts. At 18, she followed a boyfriend up in 2001 – they’re still together, living in Harrisburg – and this hiker/biker/swimmer, who says she “couldn’t sit still long enough to do an office job,” helps pay the bills as a dog walker.
Yet she defines herself mainly as a dancer, and “opportunities keep popping up – sometimes far apart, sometimes on top of each other.”
She met Omimeo co-founder Hardin Minor long ago, when she spent two years studying dance at UNC Charlotte. He asked her to join Omimeo as a manipulator, a black-clad figure who moves puppets and scenery for a black light show.
“Like dance, it requires spatial awareness, muscle memory and an ability to follow a routine and listen to music cues,” she says. “You can’t see someone 2 feet away, but you know what he’s doing.”
Minor moved her out front for “Halloween Dream,” an updating of the 2003 “Phantazmagoria.” She plays a tutu-wearing ballerina who falls asleep and enters a dream world; the piece demands pirouettes, modern moves, a touch of tango and a taste of “Thriller.” (She learned the latter when Minor choreographed a zombie walk for visiting filmmaker George Romero in 2009.) Along the way, her character develops self-reliance.
After this dream, Matter steps into the nightmare of Oscar Wilde, a poet prosecuted for “gross indecency” in 1895 and sentenced to two years’ hard labor. He wrote “De Profundis” in prison; it provides a jumping-off point for a number with that name, which opens the Moving Poets concert. (The title translates to “From the Depths.”)
“De Profundis” will be followed by a new work, “Usually Strange.” It’s inspired by “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” Wilde’s last great poem: “Yet each man kills the thing he loves/By each let this be heard./Some do it with a bitter look,/Some with a flattering word./The coward does it with a kiss,/The brave man with a sword!”
The show blends words, music by David Crowe and percussionist Daveed Korup, dance and visual art, including projected drawings by former McColl Center artist-in-residence Jason Watson. Scott Helm will play Wilde, Cynthia Farbman-Harris his judge. Matter will stick to dancing.
“I haven’t seen the piece come together, but my part will be pure movement,” she says. “What I’ve learned so far has been dark; it gives me a feeling of stoicism, of being judged.
“I always think art should be more than pure entertainment. It doesn’t have to be super-deep, but it should connect somehow with our everyday lives.”